Comic Retailers – Lucky’s Comics (Vancouver, BC)

Store Questionnaire

Owner’s Name: Gabe Winder

Manager’s Name: Ben Jacques

Number of Employees: 2

Years in Business: 15

Physical Address and Phone Number: 3972 Main Street, 604-875-9858

Website: http://www.luckys.ca

Email: luckys@luckys.ca

How did you choose your store name?

A bunch of different factors went into the decision. From the start I knew there would be a large element of luck involved in simply staying afloat…but I also subscribe to the idea of making your own luck, or at least influencing it. Starting the shop was a gamble, and I figured as long as I was able to stay open I would be lucky. I had a soft spot for places with possessive names, like “Charlie’s” or “Stinky’s”, whether they were restaurants or pawn shops, and thought “Lucky’s” would make the shop sound like a fun place. I guess the clincher, and why I felt justified in adopting the name, was that a good friend had taken to calling me “Lucky” after surviving a couple of near-death experiences.

How many sq ft is your store?

Tiny. About 650 sq ft.

Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:

Jin and Jam by Hellen Jo
Marc Bell’s Hot Potatoe

Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs

Louis Riel by Chester Brown
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
Hate by Peter Bagge
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa (kind of random perhaps and may seem like I’m adding a token Japanese title, but my other picks seemed pretty darn conventional…maybe this one is too, but what a great series)

What are you excited about for this coming year? What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Book-wise, I’m excited about the forthcoming: Wilson by Daniel Clowes, Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga, The Selves by Sonja Ahlers, Powr Mastrs 3 by CF, Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6, Dungeon Quest by Joe Daly, It Was a War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi, hopefully new work from Julie Morstad, Chris von Szombathy, Sam Hiti, Marc Bell, Owen Plummer, Genevieve Castree, Jeff Ladouceur…but I’m also excited about the unknown…the surprises and finding new things are probably the best part of the job.

I’m ecstatic about the coming year in the gallery – our current curator Francesca Bennet is unbelievable, and we’re so pleased about the ongoing popularity of gallery that we’re going to start having shows bi-weekly rather than monthly. We also plan to do more frequent/regular-paced gallery related publishing, something we’ve done as an annual a few times in the past.

What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?

I can’t pick just one, but probably tops is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. I love Vancouver and feel really privileged and fortunate to be a part of the culture and community.

What has been one of the biggest challenges?

Dealing with a fluctuating exchange rate. Other than that I don’t have a lot of complaints, other than structural/space battles.

Why are you a comics retailer?

One of my biggest thrills as a kid was my Dad bringing home a roll of cheap used comics from the local shop, and I wanted to be able to provide that sense of excitement and wonder to others.

Product Lines Carried: (e.g.: comics, manga, T-shirts, CCG, Warhammer)

Comics, books, gaming cards (Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc.)

Best selling floppy/monthly books (and Best selling manga if you sell manga)

We’re a bit unusual in the comic shop world in that we don’t sell many monthlies any more. We mostly focus on young kids’ titles in the monthlies, and our best seller there are Simpsons titles. Most popular “floppy” overall would likely be the Big Questions series by Anders Nilsen.

What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?

We’re not big into peripherals like t-shirts and posters…not enough space. We do sell a lot of other kinds of books other than comics though – one of our best selling areas are humor and oddball/unusual books like Graham Roumieu’s Bigfoot series (Me Write Book, etc.), David Carter’s pop-up books (600 Black Spots, Blue 2, etc.), I Can has Cheezburger, R. Crumb’s Heroes of Jazz and Blues (along with Kafka, for some reason our best selling Crumb items), McSweeney’s humor titles like Cold Fusion and Giraffes? Giraffes! (along with the McSweeney’s Quarterlies, other McSweeneys books and any other fiction and non-fiction we like).

What are your Best selling graphic novel books?

all-time best sellers:
Louis Riel by Chester Brown
Stacks by Marc Bell
Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
Tiempos Finales by Samuel Hiti
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
What It Is by Lynda Barry
Black Hole by Charles Burns

What books do you find yourself recommending the most?

Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman
Fuzz and Pluck by Ted Stearn
Big Questions by Anders Nilsen
Dororo 1 – 3 by Osama Tezuka
Capacity by Theo Ellsworth
Islands Fold books (Luke Ramsey)
+ the books above in the best seller list, and below in the under-14 list…

What great comic/manga should everyone under 14 be reading?

Mouse Guard, Moomin, Sardine, Robot Dreams, Lucky Luke, Little Lulu, Muppet Show, Usagi Yojimbo,

What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics (superhero / non-superhero)?

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert
Notes for a War Story by Gipi
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Shenzen, Pyongyang, or Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle
Best American Comics anthologies
McSweeney’s vol 13, Chris Ware ed.
Any books by Joe Sacco, especially Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde
All Star Superman vol 1 and 2

How important is the web to your business?

Important for promoting special events like book launches and art openings through our Facebook group and to a lesser extent Twitter. We don’t sell much online right now.

Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique?

Our area of expertise is the independent/self-published arena…we try to seek out titles that people won’t be able to find anywhere else in town, we encourage artists to consign their self-published books to us, and we feature and focus on publishers that for most stores are more of a niche area – Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics, First Second, Sparkplug, Picturebox, Perro Verlag, Islands Fold, Buenaventura, etc. We’re unique as a comic store in that we carry a lot of titles you wouldn’t find in a typical comic store – a section of art books, fiction and non-fiction books that are not “comics”, along with zines, and even a small vinyl music selection.

Describe the comic book scene within your community? (e.g.: amateur comics, anime/manga clubs, comic clubs, convention events)

Wow – I can’t describe it all, suffice to say the Vancouver “scene” is diverse, vibrant and chock full of incredibly talented artists. Leonard Wong’s conventions every few months are a mainstay of the local community and the best starting point for locals who want to meet the folks who make up the warm and welcoming local comics community. For those in the more arty vein of things, definitely come to a Lucky’s opening to meet and revel with a lot of the awesome-est folks in the local art scene.

Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?

Yes, but surprisingly it’s never been especially popular or produced many new customers for us.

What aspect of your store are you most proud?

Most proud of being a venue for self-published material that creators have difficulty finding other local retail outlets for. Also proud of the gallery, and love how the gallery keeps the store constantly changing and refreshing.

Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?

Our special nights are gallery openings and book launches…the parties are…so fun…what else can I say.

Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer base?

I don’t think so, no, although we sold an awful lot of Watchmen in the years before and after the movie came out, Persepolis didn’t do too badly either.

Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?

I can’t help thinking that Amazon has hurt us a bit, but I don’t let competition from large chains worry me too much…many of our customers support us because we’re small and independent, and the large bookstore chains carrying comics seems to have, in a weird way, added to the “legitimacy” of comics as an acceptable/semi-respectable form of literature.

With the increasing popularity of GN’s/TPB’s do you find yourself stocking these more or less than you expected. There are a lot of upfront cost in a large TPB inventory, are you focusing on a publisher or specific series? Do you intend to carry a wider range of publisher in the future or would these books be special orders only?
6 or 7 years ago we decided to extremely limit the monthlies that we carry, and now our comic inventory is about 90% or more GNs/TPBs. We focus on independent and smaller publishers. We’re always trying to expand the range of publishers we carry, for example I’d love to carry more European and foreign language titles.

Are you located near any schools? Is there a college nearby? What percentage of your business would be students? Did the presence or lack of presence influence your decision to open at your current location?

There are a couple of high schools and elementary schools nearby…probably about one third to a half our business is from students under 18 years old. The presence of the schools nearby didn’t really factor into the location decision, but it should have. I wasn’t a business school grad when I opened this place, that’s for sure.

Do you consider your store woman and kid friendly? What percentage of your business is female/child? Do you have plans to grow these groups? Do you have a kids comics section? Do you stock comics that are considered kids friendly/age appropriate reading?

We’re very woman and kid friendly, they make up about half of our business. We’re particularly focusing on growing our kids section, especially as I now have young children of my own.

Do you consider your store a collector store, where you can find high grade books, or long runs of older back issues? Do you find that back issues are a focus for your customers?

We are not a collector store with older back issues, we focus on new titles.

What form of advertising do you use? (city newspaper, small/free papers, TV, radio, flyers, word of mouth?)

Sometimes in small/free/college papers, mostly word of mouth and online.

Pull lists: good or bad? Do you have free pull list? Minimum number of titles? Do you offer a discount on everything for a pull list customer? Do you have them pay a yearly membership fee to get a discount?

We’ll reserve or pre-order anything for anybody, but we don’t have many customers subscribing regularly to titles.

Do you use a computerized point of sale and inventory system? Do you track sales of items to adjust orders up or down? Do you have a system to ensure a restocking of a sold book?

We track every sale in shared online documents that are reviewed regularly to ensure restocking of sold items.